In the best of all possible worlds, on his last full day in office, Jan. 19, 2013, Barack Obama will pardon former U.S Army Lt. Col. Terry Lakin.
This pardon will not undo Lakin’s humiliating court-martial or his shackled perp walk through Reagan National Airport or the painful five months Lakin spent at Fort Leavenworth’s Joint Regional Correctional Facility, but it will be a start.
It may allow Lakin at least to get a license to practice medicine in Kansas. When he applied last year, the Kansas Board of Healing Arts turned him down.
The Kansas Board may have indulged outlaw abortionist George Tiller for 30 years, but this timid crew was unnerved by the thought of this soft-spoken, 17-year veteran flight surgeon practicing medicine in this doctor-short state, impeccable record notwithstanding.
Lakin, for those who are unaware, chose not to obey the orders he received in 2010 to deploy to Afghanistan. He had served there before. He had served in Bosnia. He would have been happy to deploy once more.
But having exhausted all other U.S. Army channels to establish Obama’s eligibility, Lakin felt that only by refusing deployment, a direct result of the “surge” Obama ordered, could he force his commander in chief to come clean.
As Lakin saw it, the oath he took as an officer in the U.S. Army – “I, Terrence Lee Lakin, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” – all but dictated that he affirm Obama’s eligibility.
The civilian psychologist who did intake assessments at Fort Leavenworth claimed to know why Lakin took this step. As he put it, Lakin did not believe Obama to have born in the United States or to be constitutionally eligible to be president.
Lakin corrected him. As he explained, he did not know where the president was born or whether the president was eligible. The problem was that no one did.
Recall that in December 2010, when Lakin went to trial, the president had not yet troubled himself to offer even a facsimile of a birth certificate. To this point, Obama had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, to deny petitioners access to any vital data, birth certificate included.
Lakin had every right to be suspicious. The media were still waving around a facsimile of a meaningless document posted by left-wing blog the Daily Kos, claiming that it closed the case. Lakin knew otherwise.
At court-martial, alas, Lakin was not allowed to tell what he knew. He could not call any witnesses or present any evidence that might clarify his motives for not deploying.
Lakin’s heroic effort to shine some light on Obama’s eligibility ultimately failed. At the end of the day, U.S. Army courts sacrificed individual rights and constitutional probity for institutional stability.
Obama had to have been relieved. He knew why Lakin was doing what he did. And that is why, if he has even a shred of conscience, a humbled Obama will sign the order pardoning the good doctor.
Like Obama, Lakin is a family man. On the hardest day of Lakin’s life, he had to kiss his wife and three small children goodbye in the moments before his minders chained and bound him. Obama had to sense the heartbreak.
Obama knew something else as well this cruel December, something even Lakin did not know. It was he himself, Barack Obama, who started the “born in Kenya” rumors (if rumors they be).
In 1991, he claimed a Kenyan birth in the bio distributed by his literary agent, Jane Dystel. Lacking the rootedness of everyday African-Americans, envying their confidence and swagger, Obama likely felt that being thought African-born would somehow compensate.
Then, too, a Kenyan birth would make him seem more exotic and his book more marketable. Whatever his motives, this bit of information floated into the ether and hovered there until his handlers tried to shoot it down before the 2008 election.
No lives were lost in the birther controversy, but Obama allowed a good man to sacrifice his career and his very freedom so that he, the president, could maintain his political viability.
Lakin tells his story in his new book, “Officer’s Oath,” now widely available. In the full disclosure department, I helped him tell it.
If Obama reads this memoir – one fully devoid of fabrications, by the way – he may begin to understand what honor means. If he pardons Terry, he may begin to regain some of his own.